TEU is seeking a meeting with the minister of tertiary education Steven Joyce, because of its concern that proposed changes to university councils could be undemocratic and uneconomic.
The union’s national president Sandra Grey says the union wants to meet with Steven Joyce to present its position paper on good governance before he places any pressure on councils to change their structures in an undemocratic manner.
Recently, the minister announced that the way universities are governed may need to be changed to make the governing councils, which he said were ‘large and unwieldy’, ‘more innovative’. TEU believes that Steven Joyce is looking to reform university councils along the lines of the changes enacted on polytechnic councils. In 2009, the government reduced polytechnic councils down to eight members, four of whom are directly appointed by the minister. The ministerial appointments then get to choose the remaining four. The minister also appoints the chair and gives her or him the casting vote. Staff, student, union, and Māori representatives all lost their legislated seats on polytechnic councils in the 2009 changes.
TEU’s position paper recommends that all tertiary education councils should comprise a majority of lay-persons (that is people who are not employed full-time in the tertiary institution or ministerial appointees). They should include a mix of members drawn from the local communities and iwi; and from business/industry. One third of places on tertiary education councils should be filled by staff and student representation and less than ten percent of the council positions should be held by management.
Sandra Grey says it is also crucial that councils are as democratic as possible.
“Where possible, positions on council should be appointed through open and democratic methods, with appointments used as a last resort to make sure a balance of skills and talents on the governing body.”
“We understand that the minister may pressure councils to change their own structures rather than compel them to change through legislation. If that is the case it is important that councils stand up for values of independence and democracy,” said Sandra Grey.